This article is dedicated to the history and location of Andy Warhol’s personal art studios known as the Factories.
Andrew Warhola, Jr. (more commonly known as Andy Warhol): the man, the myth, the artist. Many art lovers and casual art viewers know that if you think of pop culture art, you think of Warhol. He touched souls and hearts around the world with his awkwardly charming personality captured on film. Warhol also produced groundbreaking work, making avant-garde artistic films roaring in the era of President Ronald Reagan’s conservatism of the 1980s. The center from which he made such works was at his New York factories. .
Warhol did not have one art manufacturing factory, but four throughout his artistic career. Scattered across the city, each had their mark of achievement and boundary breaking.
The factory was founded in 1963 and its production of subversive masterpieces ended in 1987 with the factory’s fourth and final location. Regardless of location, the Factory became the sphere of Warhol’s public and private life. When people in his sphere of influence came from Europe or California to New York, they were told to go to the Factory and meet Warhol in person. Celebrities from around the world flocked to meet Warhol and get a sense of who he was as an artist.
“We invited the Chinese ambassador to the factory, but he never came back,” Warhol said in a 1977 interview with Interview magazine.
The factory got its name when Warhol realized he needed assistants to help him with his serigraph creation. This was particularly the case when screen printing became his main source of expression and the medium he would continue to use throughout his career. The pace began to pick up and Warhol was producing large scale prints. The plant earned its rightful name.
Warhol had the idea of printing photo silkscreens when he started printing money. According to the 1977 interview, he spoke to a screen printer, who told him he could reproduce photographs.
“I think the first picture I took was of a baseball player,” Warhol said. “It was a way to show the action.”
The first factory was called the Silver Factory because Warhol was taken to a haircut party and had his friend Billy Name decorate his new factory in the same silver tin foil and paint color as the Name hair salon.
“There was a lot of machinery there and heavy ground. They must have made shoes there,” Warhol said in the 1977 interview.
Artist EL A. PANDA, a Chicago-based artist who has done much personal research on Warhol, reflected on Warhol’s contributions to the art world. She stated a personal recollection about Warhol’s ability.
“He made his art for everyone but not everyone could afford it,” said EL A. PANDA The free press of the new school in a telephone interview.
She dedicated a piece to Warhol, titled “Factory”, for his contributions to pop art and pop culture throughout and after his life.
The Silver Factory is located on the fifth floor of 231 E. 47th St. in Midtown, and was where Warhol worked from 1963 to 1967. This first factory defined the 1960s era in the sentiment of the commodification of society and the awareness of commodification the capitalist system was aimed at ordinary people and products: making people feel like purchasable objects rather than just people. Warhol’s Brillo cans, Campbell’s soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles and celebrity serigraphs were examples of this approach. His art was a playful reflection of what everyone had access to in this capitalist society. This building no longer exists as there is now an apartment building in this location.
Warhol had to move to another location after the demolition of the first factory. The second factory was located on the second floor of the Decker Building at 33 Union Square West and was used by Warhol from 1967 to 1973. This factory was infamous: it was here that Valerie Solanas shot Warhol three times in 1968.
From this point on, Warhol set up a system of cameras to watch what his visitors were doing and was very interested in seeing what made people tick; seeing people’s personalities and mannerisms and assessing whether they were suspicious.
Warhol also used the space to take pictures of himself with the injuries he sustained after being shot. He was not very fond of his physical appearance and suffered from body dysmorphia after the attempt on his life.
“It’s not about what you look like, it’s about what you do and what you broadcast to the world,” EL A. PANDA said.
Despite his injuries, he chose to push forward and show New York and the world his vision of what art could be.
After this incident, Warhol needed a better way to protect himself when he moved to his new factory location.
The third factory was located at 860 Broadway at the north end of Union Square Park and was used by Warhol from 1974 to 1984. Warhol felt he needed protection because his workspace was only three levels and he was worried that someone would throw a bomb or a brick through his window. According to a 2012 article in the Village Voice, Warhol would send his assistants to get his carrot juice for him because this event greatly affected his trust in people.
Warhol asked one of his friends to set up a protection system to prevent any other superstars and audience members from attacking him in the future. His friend Fred Hughes devised a system to connect the telephone line to the lines of friends of Warhol and Hughes who spoke other languages. These friends posed as foreign receptionists who spoke in thick accents with confusing questions to deter any potential abusers in front of the SuperStars who planned to call him in the future.
Warhol’s last factory was located at 22 E. 33rd St. and was used by Warhol from 1984 to 1987. This building no longer exists, like the original factory location, as it was demolished in 2013. Warhol noted that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. It seems that his last factory reached this landmark and was demolished when his 15 minutes were finally up. His fame, however, lasted well over 15 minutes.
Warhol’s legacy is hard to ignore, and the bizarre escapades that summed up his art and his life were fascinating for many reasons. His contribution to film and visual art is unquestionably important to the greater perception of pop culture through pop art. Warhol paved the way for the counterculture to become important to mainstream culture. He did not invent the concept of 15 minutes of fame for each person, but brought it to the forefront of popular consensus. Nine months before Warhol’s death in 1987, he created a series of iconic self-portraits featuring his straight gaze and spiky wig he was known to wear.
Overall, he helped cultivate a more open-minded and creative world.